Freaky Dreams: What Do They Mean?

Whether it’s falling off a cliff or public nudity, find out what may be causing those vivid, crazy dreams.

From the WebMD Archives


Cognitive scientist and Duke University professor Owen Flanagan is the author of Sleep, Dreams & the Evolution of the Conscious Mind. He has written that "Bizarreness will increase ... the more you have on your mind."

Bert. O. States, professor emeritus of dramatic arts at the University of California, Santa Barbara, agrees. In a paper called "Dream Bizarreness and Inner Thought," he writes, "Dreams are a psychical prism through which reality somehow gets refracted -- as opposed to reflected."

Deidre Barrett is the immediate past president of the International Association of the Study of Dreams and author of Committee of Sleep. She says all dreams are a little strange by waking thought standards. "But artists and scientists report dreams we call bizarre or weird as quite positive or interesting or having creative potential."

Moss tells WebMD, "Crazy dreams may actually be crazy like a fox, using wild dramas and special effects to get us to remember and pay attention to something we have been blocking out -- or simply to lighten up."

Decoding Dreams

All of us can recall strange dreams. But interpreting and understanding them can be tricky.

Some of the most common dreams include teeth falling out (indicating a possible fear of aging or death), falling (loss of confidence or threat to security), or public nudity (feelings of vulnerability or exposure of weakness). These are examples of archetypal dreams that exist across time, culture, and people.

But most dreams are intensely personal. They reflect the underlying thoughts and feelings of the dreamer. Symbols -- images or objects with obvious meaning in daily life -- serve as metaphors, representing something partially known. A lion in a dream, for example, can mean something different to a circus performer than to a teen who claims it as her favorite stuffed animal. By examining each dream element and looking for parallels between associations, you can decipher a dream's meaning.

"Even if it doesn't initially make sense to you, contemplate the dream, meditate on it, marinate in it," suggests Sullivan Walden. "Pretend you are on a treasure hunt. Your interest in uncovering the mystery of what your dreams are telling you will lead you to the gold that is waiting for you."